Last night, 21 year old, Swiss Alpine Ski Racer Camille Rast took sixth place in the Flachau, World Cup night slalom. She also competes in Elite Mountain Biking in the summer months including taking part in the Enduro World Series, Zermatt round in August 2020.
Then there's Ester Ledecka (pictured). The Czech, double Olympic gold medalist in Snowboard parallel slalom and the alpine skiing event of Super-G from the 2018, Pyeongchang Olympics. Who continues to juggle the competition and training calendars of alpine skiing and snowboarding and still remain in the podium mix for both sports.
I think it's fair to say physically they must both be great athletes but what else can we learn from them? I've got more questions than answers, maybe others out there have thoughts or even better research to answer these questions.
Are they able to complete the same volume of technical training and skill development as a single sport athlete? If not, would their performance improve if they did? I wonder how the rather infamous 10,000 hour rule would apply here?
Does having a balance of focus between two different sports help them? Balancing their focus so their whole world does not revolve around one thing. The same question could be asked of dual career athletes or athletes continuing with higher education whilst competing at an elite level.
Do the transferable mental skills help them? Being able to develop a growth mindset and a competitive mental state in one sport must help when competing in another.
And the big one for me is transferable athletic skills. The balance and tilting responses required in the three sports mentioned above are transferable, whether you have a snowboard, skis, or a bike underneath you the ability to maintain balance, and adapt and recover to changing terrain is crucial in all of three sports.
In Scotland you don't have to look too far for similar examples. Whether it be Lesley McKenna, British Team ski racer turned Olympic Snowboarder or her cousins Alain and Noel Baxter Olympic ski racers with excellent ice hockey and shinty skills.
Or what about the current Men's World Champion in Downhill Mountain Biking, Reece Wilson. A later starter to the sport but with transferable skills taken from Motocross, which he continues to do. He can also be found playing golf, perfecting his kendama skills and isn't too shabby on the old scooter either. I believe the growth mindset required to learn new skills is so important to become an elite athlete and being the best in the world. You can't just walk away if it gets tough and you can't rely on others to do the work for you either. Interestingly enough Reece Wilson is the same year of birth as Scottish rugby international Zander Fagerson, who at age 14 was a Scottish age group downhill mountain bike champion. Another Scotland rugby international, Helen Nelson was a Scottish Alpine Ski Team member before changing her focus to rugby. The list could go on.
As a coach of children and teenagers I see so often so much focus on one sport, often leading to burn out. Don't get me wrong you obviously still have to put in the hours of training to become elite in your sport but the benefits of multi-sports for young athletes, and perhaps not so young athletes, are obvious to see. At some point the investment and focus will be required but encouraging young athletes to sample and take part in multiple sports is so beneficial whatever their goals.
In due course, I hope to research and write further into some of the topics outlined above as well as others. I would love to hear your comments, feedback and any relevant research out there.
*Side note as I finished writing these musings I flicked on to Instagram and the first person that popped up, the particularly gritty and absolutely lovely, Anna Vincenti, ski touring in the Pentlands. The former Team GB freestyle skier, who retired due to knee injuries, is now targeting the Olympics as a boxer, and that's after a time playing as goal keeper for both Motherwell and Malta! They walk among us!!!